Please don't read this if you have a really weak stomach
Early this morning reader Stacy S. brought my attention to a nauseating opinion piece by Zach Calef from the Iowa State Daily, deceptively titled "Double standard in reactions to rape." Calef's basic premise is that the three young men who brutally murdered Gwen Araujo (see my cartoon "Shallow Grave") not only weren't committing a hate crime, but were acting "understandably," if possibly "taking it a little too far." His reasoning? Araujo's failure to inform these men that she was born with male genitalia is the same thing as rape?!? He then goes on to argue for "mild sentencing":
The police did not stop at murder... They are trying to get a sentence extended by claiming the men committed a hate crime. This is absurd. A hate crime is a crime committed because of a person's race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion and/or handicap status. That means the underlying reason for the beating was Araujo's sexual orientation. And that is not the case.... The men should be charged with manslaughter or something along those lines. But, considering the state they were in at the time the crime was committed, the reaction is not mind-boggling. Think about it. How would you react?
Whoa. That upsets me so much I don't even know what to say. Luckily Stacy has her own response:
This column is not merely insensitive; it is not merely intolerant of "sexual orientation" or "gender identity," but is a proclamation that any woman who has sex with any man has an obligation to do and be everything the man wants, and nothing more, nothing less nor anything else. Further, it is a statement that any man not fully satisfied by a woman has the prerogative of doing her any degree of harm he deems an adequate expression of his disappointment.
Basically, Calef's argument is just another version of the disgusting old "gay-panic" defense which was thankfully not allowed to be used in the trial of Matthew Shephard's murderers (although in this case we might call it the "trans-panic" defense). The gay panic "defense" suggests that if heterosexual men think that a gay man might have made a pass at them or be interested in them, it's only understandable that they go suddenly go into a homicidal rage and brutally murder said gay man. Presumably a "trans-panic" defense suggests that if a heterosexual man finds out that the woman he consenually kissed last night happened to be born with male genitalia, of course he'll go temporarily insane with revulsion (think of Jim Carrey's shameful performance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective).
I can't help but be reminded of the all-too-recent horrifying history of lynching in this country, in which crowds would "justify" their brutal murder and torture of black men by claiming that the men had raped, or perhaps just looked at, white women. As a white woman in a relationship with a black man (with a one-year anniversary coming up next week!), this of course gives me particularly horrific nightmares. Republican politicians, among others, like to talk about the "good old days" back in the 1950s when people were supposedly more polite and civil. But to me, those are the bad old days of segregation and lynching... back before Loving v. Virginia and Brown v. Board of Education.
And I hope that a time like today, in which some people still consider sexual identity and sexual orientation justifications for murder, will already have become "the bad old days" before I have children of my own. And I intend to be as involved in that shift as possible, as I don't have a lot of patience.